Handling Intangible Assets In The Digital Age
Technology has changed much of the world, leading to wealth and innovation in almost every sector of business. It also poses a host of new ethical questions in almost ever facet of philosophy, ranging from the value of intangible goods to the future meaning of artificial intelligence rights. The latter part about artificial intelligence is still far on the horizon, but digital assets are becoming more understood and valued--and may need to be managed after leaving this life. If you have digital assets worth real money, or feel that your digital work may have worth in the future, here are few angles to consider as you work on estate plans.
What Digital Assets Are Worth Money?
Inventions of any kind are of course valuable when they're realized, but what about services that may not hold any current value? Different techniques for getting technical tasks done can be claimed for licensing by your beneficiaries, but it's also easy in the age of the internet to argue where the original idea came from. If you're not there to argue the chronology of your assets, the digital value can plummet.
Take stock of what you do on the internet or any computer/technology-based services. Even if you aren't a developer or owner of some technology stock, do you have an account somewhere that could be of value to someone? Perhaps a membership on a discussion forum where you explained a specific concept, or revealed certain information?
If so, these accounts can be valuable, but easily forgotten and contentious digital property. Your beneficiaries will either need access to the information to carry out preservation and profit actions, or restrictions if you need to preserve your digital assets while only allowing beneficiaries to gain passive benefits.
On one hand, you may want a beneficiary to catalog your information and create compilations for others to use. You may want the beneficiaries to sell the information for their own wealth, or to manage some kind of long-term wealth plan involving licensing. If you intended the information to be free for all, you would need a probate attorney to figure out how that would work and ways to stop your beneficiaries or other parties from claiming ownership.
Intangible Goods Of Personal Value
Just as you may leave behind a favorite jacket or picture collection in addition to (or instead of) material wealth and profitable assets, you may have some digital assets that are simply personal to you that need to be maintained.
Accounts at specific websites--or even contents of your own websites--may or may not be valuable, but if you want to make sure they're at least given a fair shake at perpetuity after your passing, a probate attorney needs to have the proper information.
Just as you would list a location and description of a physical item, you would need to record the account details. This means more than the username and password; a beneficiary would need verification information used by the website, which may include secret questions and answers as well as contact details. A certificate of death can get into many accounts away from the internet, but many places are protective of privacy even after the user is no longer living--both to honor privacy no matter the situation and in case of hoaxes or false alarms.
As many accounts are involved in performance and economic gain, they're not much different from giving over a useful tractor or a set of stock trading secrets. Contact a probate attorney like those at Moore, O'Connell & Refling PC to discuss estate planning and to arrange a secure way to share information.